Weekly Columns

When a loved one is suffering from physical or mental illness it often makes us feel helpless or even hopeless depending on how severe the situation looks from the outside. 

In the case of mental health crises like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal thoughts, it can be difficult to know when or how to offer support. The good news is the stigma around these illnesses has begun to decrease while resources to bolster intervention and treatment are expanding.

We can’t underestimate the power of reaching out with tools and information that can save lives and change the outlook for those struggling.

I’m proud to help advance those efforts in the U.S. Senate on several fronts.

Since September is recognized as suicide prevention month, it was an ideal time to introduce legislation aimed at supporting mental health among two specific groups: college athletes and veterans. 

As a former Razorback football player, I understand how demanding collegiate athletics are on student-athletes and the unique pressures they encounter. That’s why I’m championing enhancements to mental health services for them by introducing a bill that would expand access to a federal grant aimed at campus suicide prevention.

The Targeting Emotional And Mental Stability (TEAMS) Act would allow school-based initiatives supporting the mental health needs of college athletes to be eligible for the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant Program, which currently targets services at college students including those at risk for suicide, depression, serious mental illness/serious emotional disturbances and/or substance use disorders that can lead to school failure.

This bipartisan measure is a simple but meaningful step to protect the health and wellbeing of the young people navigating school, sports and other aspects of life.

Of course, student-athletes are far from the only population facing this challenge. I’ve also been working to ensure resources extend to rural communities and veterans. 

The rate of suicide for farmers is 3.5 times higher than the general population and 52 percent of rural adults reported experiencing more stress and mental health concerns in 2021 compared to the year prior. As we continue to negotiate a new Farm Bill, I’m hopeful a provision I’ve championed to extend resources for those living and working in farm country will be included in any final version.

In recent years we’ve also successfully increased visibility about the dangerous outcomes linked to poor mental health among former military servicemembers. 

A Senate resolution to designate September 30 as National Veterans Suicide Prevention Day, which I’m honored to lead, is an important next step. As these men and women confront the invisible wounds of war, we must come alongside them to help ensure they have opportunities for treatment and support.

And that mission is ongoing. In fact, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) just visited Bentonville to share an update on the progress the VA is making, including its implementation of a program I authored to help veteran-serving nonprofits reach those in crisis or at risk. To date, it has resulted in a $50 million coordinated approach to identifying and surrounding vulnerable veterans with care and belonging.

That’s what this is all about – offering a hand to lift up anyone in mental despair, whether that’s on college campuses or in rural and urban communities across America. I’m committed to helping us all use the means available to do that, so lives are saved and recovery ensues.